Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Coachella Festival 2012 review coverage: April 21

photo by Robert Kinsler
My review originally appeared at

I'm back for a second action-packed day of music. The polo field was definitely more sparse once gates opened, likely due to festivalgoers partying early into this morning.

Since it’s Record Store Day, fellow OC Register freelancer Robert Kinsler and I immediately made a beeline over to the Zia store, where plenty of exclusive vinyl and CD releases were there for the taking. We did our part to support local music and picked up a few items.

Ambling over to the Outdoor Theatre stage, we caught OC’s own Suedehead, who had the unenviable task of trying to drum up attention before a small crowd. As the high energy set progressed, it wasn’t long before the size tripled to nearly 100 people.

Front man Davey Warsop (pictured above) definitely knows how to get a crowd excited. He got some call and response action going, even as everyone baked in the sun. The band’s take on Northern British soul and The Jam-styled dynamics worked well in these environs, especially upbeat opener “Can’t Stop,” rousing character studies “Trevor,” and “Small Town Hero,” plus the harmony-filled, totally appropriate “Long Hot Summer.”

The Vaccines sure draw a colorful, spirited crowd. In the Gobi tent, they waved flags and cheered at the opening notes of several songs. I saw one brave person sport a stuffed fur animal head (surely to be put to good use later this evening during Kaskade or David Guetta‘s DJ sets). Someone else held up a homemade sign featuring Clint Eastwood's face, for whatever reason.

Taking the stage to the Ramones' “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio,” the London quartet’s short, often punkified pop tunes were just as simple and catchy as that once revered band. “Eleanor” mined Jesus and Mary Chain territory (minus the feedback). Standouts included selections from last year’s winsome What Did You Expect From the Vaccines album: the beach-themed “Teenage Icon,” and “Wet Suit,” not to mention a chiming guitar-led “Post Breakup Sex.

When it comes to performing at festivals, Ricky Wilson has a mischievous streak and a penchant for danger. The last time the Kaiser Chiefs leader played here a few years ago, it was on the Outdoor Theatre stage and he decided to scale the side of it.

Late Saturday afternoon on the Coachella Stage, the British pop/rock band’s engaging set saw the singer embark on another climbing excursion, by taking a trip out to the beer garden in search of a cold brew, then mixing it up with fans.

As for the music, their amped-up takes on ’90s Britpop and ’80s New Wave contained a healthy dose of English irreverence. Wilson told the crowd, “It’s the second week at Coachella and everything feels fresh.” Another time he boasted “here’s another treat” and “make the most of us.”

Taking the stage to Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” Kaiser Chiefs opened with the hyper-kinetic “Na Na Na Na Naa,” among several selections off their 2005 debut disc Employment

Equally spastic were “Oh My God” and the minor U.S. modern rock radio hits “I Predict a Riot” and “Ruby,” and Wilson often pogoed right along with the audience. The insistent pace of “On the Run” and the almost Devo-esque “Kinda Girl You Are,” off this year’s great Start the Revolution Without Me were also standouts.

photo by Kelly Swift
Since I missed Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (pictured, left) over the holidays and was always a big Oasis fan, I had high expectations for the Mancunian singer/guitarist’s set here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

While it’s true that he basically just gets down to business live, the frequently majestic tunes more than make up for any perceived shortcomings in stage presence.

Then again, younger brother Liam always just stood at the microphone during Oasis gigs. By the way, astute listeners might have heard the elder Gallagher’s upcoming experimental project, Amorphous Androgynous, piped over the sound system before his elder brother began.

On the main stage, Gallagher’s tasty baker’s-dozen tunes launched with an acoustic-based version of Oasis’ “It’s Good to Be Free” and also included his old group’s “Talk Tonight,” “Little by Little,” “Mucky Fingers” (thunderous, with forceful vocals and pounding piano work), “Half the World Away” (a breezy gem) and the soaring closer “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

People who were previously paying scant attention suddenly perked up once they noticed one of Oasis’ biggest stateside hits. Gallagher rounded those out with songs from the High Flying Birds that also fared well, notably the psychedelic “Everybody’s on the Run,” the ominous “AKA…What a Life!” with rollicking piano, and “If I Had a Gun.”

As the evening got crazier, I headed over to the packed Mojave tent to catch Kasabian. The British dance-rockers’ brash music has an exultant quality that makes you feel like you can take on the world. That vibe is multiplied in a live setting.

Before their set, roadies tossed hundreds of large, personally emblazoned glow sticks to those in front, making the atmosphere more charged after the lights dimmed. Starting with a brawny new “Days Are Forgotten,” the band also performed the silly yet powerful title track from last year’s Velociraptor!, plus the album’s electrifying “Re-Wired” and sinister undertow of “Fire.” Singer Tom Meighan worked the crowd into a frenzy throughout and the musicians took everything to a higher level during “Club Foot.”

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